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Matthew 18:17 - Exposition

Tell it unto the Church ( τῇ ἐκκλησι ì ᾳ ). This is the third step to take. Our Lord is contemplating a visible society, possessed of certain powers of discipline and correction, such as we find in the history of the apostolic Church (see 1 Corinthians 5:1 , etc.; 1 Corinthians 6:1 , etc.; 1 Timothy 1:20 ). Christ had already spoken of his Ecclesia in his commendation of Peter's great confession ( Matthew 16:18 ); so the twelve were prepared for this use of the word, and would not confound the body here signified with the Jewish synagogue. To the latter the expressions in Matthew 18:18-20 could not apply. The custom and order of procedure in the synagogue would afford an idea of what the Lord meant; but the congregation intended was to be composed of Christians. the followers of Christ, who were delivered from the narrowness of rabbinical rules and definitions. The institution of ecclesiastical tribunals has been referred to this passage, but, as understood by the apostles, it would denote, not so much ecclesiastical rulers as the particular congregation to which the delinquent belonged; and the offence for which he is denounced is some private scandal or quarrel. The course of proceeding enjoined would be impracticable in a large and widely extended community, and could not be applied under our present circumstances. If he neglect to hear the Church . Now comes the final stage in corrective discipline. An heathen man ( ὁἐθνικο Ì ς , the Gentile ) and a publican ( ὁτελω ì νης , the publican ). The class, not the individual, is meant. If he turns a deaf ear to the authoritative reproof of the Church, let him be regarded no longer as a brother, but as a heathen and an outcast. Christ, without endorsing the Jews' treatment of Gentiles and publicans, acknowledges the fact, and uses it as an illustration. The obdurate offender must be deprived of Church membership, and treated as those without the Jewish pale were commonly treated. The traditional law enjoined that a Hebrew might not associate, eat, or travel with a heathen, and that if any Jew took the office of publicans, he was to be virtually excommunicated. In later times, there naturally arose in the Christian Church the punishment of offenders by means of exclusion from holy communion, and excommunication. But even in this extreme case charity will not regard the sinner as hopelessly lost; it will seek his salvation by prayer and entreaty.

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